Birdhouse : Burnett Deal “Almost Done”

Posted in Baseball at 11:06 pm by

Scout.com’s Brian Walton is reporting the Cardinals are on the brink of announcing their signing of free agent P A.J. Burnett to a 5-year guaranteed contract, pending the results of a physical examination.

The Sunday edition of Dominican paper El Nacional quoted Mets GM Omar Minaya as saying of Sammy Sosa, “(he) only needs an opportunity to play and show that he’s recovered”. Sosa, who hit .221 with 14 homers and 45 RBI’s in 2005 was quoted by the AP as claiming several clubs were interested in signing him. I sincerely hope the closest one to Queens is the Newark Bears.

T-Birds Soar Past Toros

Posted in Basketball at 9:55 pm by

In D-League action this afternoon before some 2000 people (about half of whom were disguised as empty chairs), Albuquerque erased a 14 point 2nd half deficit enroute to a 102-92 defeat of the Austin Toros.

Former Suns PG Yuta Tabuse (above, 14 points) ran the Thunderbirds offense skillfully for much of the 4th quarter, during which time Toros coach Dennis Johnson seemed to be drifting into a near slumber. DJ was upright, but a strong breeze would’ve knocked him over.

Marcus Fizer scored 15 for Austin prior to fouling out…and also before turning the ball over and missing a few crucial shots down the stretch.

The Toros’ “Military Appreciation Day” was marked by a dozen or so area youth taking the US Army oath of enlistment during halftime ceremonies. Friends, family and others in attendence applauded wildly as these selfless individuals commemorated their new status as cannon fodder.

Bengals For Real, Pats Thankful For Place In Shit Division

Posted in Gridiron at 9:14 pm by

As of 6 days ago, Ben Roethlisberger (above) hadn’t lost an NFL game to anyone other than New England.

A pair of defeats to Indy and Cincinnati later, and the balance of power in the AFC North is, I dunno, shifting, morphing, etc. Perhaps I’d have a clearer explanation for it if I was wasn’t haunted by Big Ben’s Fathead commericals. When Carson Palmer didn’t take a snap his entire rookie season, there’s no way I saw him emerging into one of the league’s best QB’s. And likewise, prior to this year, I didn’t predict the regression of David Carr —- though it’s still tempting to wonder how he might thrive were he not sacked a dozen times a week. It could be interesting to see how Carr might perform in 2007 if Reggie Bush is in his backfield. (the former can leave Dom Capers tickets at will call).

Though it’s pretty hard to envision New England going deep in the playoffs, they’re clearly a different team with Corey Dillon available. That said, the Patriots probably could’ve beaten the Jets today with Matt Dillon at running back — and who amongst us, particularly those who paid to see “The Saint Of Fort Washington”, wouldn’t have liked to see that?

The Giants did a fine job manhandling Drew Bledsoe this afternoon, another shining example of why New York was oh so wise not to send Osi Umenyiora to San Diego in the Eli Manning draft day deal.

Madden : Mets Acquire Lo Duca

Posted in Baseball at 6:51 pm by

From the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden (posted at 5:52pm EST)

Mets GM Omar Minaya has crossed catcher off his holiday shopping list, shunning the free agent market and turning once again to the Florida Marlins in a deal for Paul LoDuca, the Daily News has learned.

In exchange for the 33-year-old Brooklyn-born LoDuca, Minaya sacrificed one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects, 21-year-old righthander Gaby Hernandez, a Miami high school product, and another minor leaguer pitcher to be named later.

Minaya also talked to the Devil Rays about their catcher, Toby Hall, but zeroed in on LoDuca when the Diamondbacks-Marlins deal for him was killed because of Arizona’s insistence on Florida including substantial cash in it.

Indians Sign Byrd

Posted in Baseball at 6:26 pm by

It really is getting to the point where we might as well just reload Ken Rosenthal’s page all day long waiting for news. Free agent P Paul Byrd, most recent with the Angels, has signed a $14.25 million contract with Cleveland.

(Paul, way back in 1992 before he started rocking the Chris Benoit look)

Rosenthal also identifies the Tribe as front-runners for the services of reliever Trevor Hoffman.

Tabitha Soren’s Husband Falls In Love With Mike Leach

Posted in Gridiron at 4:20 pm by

Having already turned Billy Beane into a household name/divisive figure beyond that of a mere baseball GM, “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis turns his attentions to Texas Tech offensive guru/head coach Mike Leach (above, middle) in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

Despite the immodest Lewis calling such a gridiron profile “virgin territory” (cue up sound effects of several dozen football scribes throwing beer bottles at the wall), it’s well worth checking out.

“Thinking man’s football” is a bit like “classy stripper”: if the adjective modifies the noun too energetically, it undermines the nature of the thing. “Football’s the most violent sport,” Leach says. “And because of that, the most intense and emotional.” Truth is, he loves the violence. (“Aw, yeah, the violence is awesome. That’s the best part.”) Back in the early 1980′s, when he was a student at B.Y.U., he spotted a poster for a seminar, “Violence in American Sports.” It was given by a visiting professor who bemoaned the influence of football on the American mind. To dramatize the point, the professor played a video of especially shocking blows delivered in college and pro football. “It had all the great hits in football you remembered and wanted to see again,” Leach recalls. “Word got around campus that this guy had this great tape, and the place was jammed. Everybody was cheering the hits. I went twice.”

Leach’s Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-2) will take on Alabama on January 2 in the Cotton Bowl.

Pierzynski Pads Resume

Posted in Baseball, Professional Wrestling at 1:36 pm by

From the Miami Herald :

World series champion catcher A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox found himself in the middle of a brawl Tuesday, Nov. 29 in Orlando, Fla., when he attended a TV taping for TNA Wrestling’s iMPACT!, which airs every Saturday night on SPIKE-TV (11 p.m. EST).

Pierzynski, a longtime pro wrestling fan, was there to present White Sox memorabilia including numerous team-signed items to The Phenomenal A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin and Sonjay Dutt — three of the top wrestlers of TNA’s electrifying, death-defying X-Division, a group of amazingly-talented wrestlers who have no fear, no limit and no boundaries.

During the presentation, the cocky Simon Diamond and his Diamonds in the Rough entourage of David Young and Elix Skipper interrupted the proceedings.


Dale Torborg(above), one of the White Sox’ strength and conditioning coaches and a former pro wrestler (WCW’s Demon), also was present, along with pro wrestling Hall of Famer Bobby The Brain Heenan.

Torborg, a former Florida Marlins conditioning coach , is the son of former major league player/coach/manager Jeff Torborg, now a broadcaster for FOX-TV.

Ichiro, Lost In Translation

Posted in Baseball at 1:27 pm by

In today’s Seattle Times, the Kyodo News’ Keizo Konishi writes that his recent interview with Mariners OF Ichiro Suzuki — the basis for a November report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer claiming that Ichiro was disillusioned with his teammates — was grossly misinterpreted.

In the interview Ichiro never criticized any teammate by name. He never mentioned players playing cards.

The comment in the P-I’s translation that new players played cards all the time without studying videos of the opposing pitchers is my own personal observation. I’d like to make that perfectly clear.

I’ve covered the major leagues for five years, and I understand that there’s a special set of interpersonal relations and rules that operate in the clubhouse. If they were winning that would be one thing, but the mood in the Mariners’ clubhouse this year really was odd. At least I can say that I hadn’t seen things this way until this past season. And I wrote this comment because I heard people connected to the team lamenting this as a scene that symbolized a breakdown in team discipline.

One other thing I’d like to make very clear here is how difficult it is to convey the nuances of articles written in a different language. One of my jobs as a reporter for more than 15 years for the international news organization Kyodo News has been to write Japanese articles based on English news reports. Among all the reporters in the press box at Safeco Field, only myself and the handful of other Japanese reporters have this kind of experience.

Needless to say, the most important thing in this process is getting the facts straight. You have to start by correctly pinpointing who said what. I’ve seen many cases, though, where even when this is done perfectly, the original sense of the article doesn’t get communicated.

The problem this time, though, is much more basic. In relying on a translation of my interview, the reporter mixed up what Ichiro said and what I wrote. On top of this, the whole text of the interview wasn’t translated, just a less-than-adequate summary.

The best catcher in Japanese baseball today, Kenji Johjima, has signed with the Mariners. We’re in an age when an increasing number of new Japanese players will come to the U.S. to play. And there will be more and more opportunities for their words and actions to be transmitted on both sides of the Pacific.

With this incident in mind, I have a suggestion to make to readers in Seattle. In the future, whenever you read a newspaper article that says, “according to reports in Japan,” I’d like you to recall what took place this time.

Lt. Dangle Tranfering To Flushing?

Posted in Baseball at 1:17 pm by

A man who looks suspiciously like Rick Moranis claims that Dodgers 2B / team chemistry expert / moto-cross enthusiast Jeff Kent (above) might return to the Mets.

The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro on the D-Backs’ efforts to trade P Javier Vazquez.

It seems that Vazquez’s remaining two years and $24 million won’t be a major hindrance. Perhaps after last week’s free-agent transactions – most notably the $21.375 million, three-year deal given pitcher Esteban Loaiza – Vazquez’s contract may appear more reasonable.

Vazquez is expected to fetch at least a position player who could be plugged into the lineup (perhaps a center fielder or a catcher) or a pitcher, and maybe more. It’s likely that not only would the acquired players be young and under the Diamondbacks’ control financially, but also that the team wouldn’t need to kick in money to the deal.

Byrnes said he has been in contact with about eight to 10 teams regarding Vazquez, noting that talks with some clubs were so advanced that a deal could be only a phone call or two away.

Washington and the New York Mets have surfaced most often in trade rumors.

“We’re getting close to arriving at a deal that we like,” Byrnes said. “We want to use that trade to set up improvements that we’d like to make with the roster

Defending The Dog Against G.I. Joe Mushnick

Posted in Gridiron, Sports Radio, The Woah at 12:46 pm by

From Phil Mushnick in Sunday’s NY Post.

Give Chris Russo credit for guts. He’s never afraid to lead with his shallow side.

Russo gave Thursday’s rush hour audience a good sense of what his sense of sports is. After Mike Francesa told him that he should make it a point to attend at least one Army-Navy game – just for the feel of it as a fabulous event – Russo grunted, “Eh, that kind of game doesn’t do anything for me.”

Then what kind of game does do something for Russo. No. 3-ranked Ten Percent Grad Rate State vs. No. 10 Two Prior Arrests U.? If you can’t find appeal in the Army-Navy game, you have no genuine sense of what constitutes genuine sport.

If you’re a little in the dark about what constitutes “genuine sport”, the following factoids from Joe Lapointe in yesterday’s New York Times might be of some assistance.

They are building a sports fortress on the high ground of the Army campus along the Hudson River, much of it for football. Two new buildings – large, serious-looking structures – have risen next to the old stadium like big blockers in a pass pocket.

Next door, next month, they will break ground on a $15 million indoor practice facility to go with the new weight-training center, the new locker room, the new offices for the coaches and the new auditorium for the athletes – all financed through private donations.

Why the aggressive upgrade? Head Coach Bobby Ross and many influential people involved with the academy say a good Army football team is important for the self-image and morale of the military in wartime.

One of those people is Tom Dyer, the chairman of the powerful Association of Graduates. Dyer’s group has raised more than $300 million in the last decade, about half of it for sports, he said.

“What we’re all about up there is winning,” Dyer said. “It’s good for West Point, it’s good for the Army and, frankly, it’s good for the nation. When they go into the Army and enter combat, the whole purpose is to win.”

Bob McClure, a member of the board of trustees for the Association of Graduates, said: “We were on the bottom five percentile in facilities and what we paid the coaching staff. We had been basically outstripped. College athletics has really become a business, major-league, big-time. The taxpayer does not pay for a top 50 college program.” Ross’s salary, more than $600,000, is underwritten in part by the alumni group.

It’s comforting to know that while American solidiers were struggling to pay for their own body armor, other concerned citizens, mindful of the Army football team’s impact on morale, were raising millions of dollars and paying Bobby Ross’ salary.

I’m hardly an expert on military matters — I mean, when someone compares armed combat to a football game, I tend to think they oughta be neutered — but I strongly suspect that not coming home in a body bag does wonders for morale, too.

I am probably writing these words for the first and last time : I’m with Russo on this one. Fuck the Army-Navy game.

Voshon : Don’t Do Me Like That

Posted in Basketball at 11:55 am by

Suspended for one game after refusing to check in for 17 seconds (!) of garbage time at the end of Wednesday’s loss to the Hornets, Denver G Voshon Lenard has demanded a trade.

From the Denver Post’s Marc J. Spears.

Lenard said Saturday that he has asked the Nuggets to trade him. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder started the first six games this season. But he has played sparingly since, and not at all in seven games, including Saturday’s contest against Miami.

“It would probably be better to try a different situation,” Lenard said. “I don’t want to be anywhere where I’m not wanted. I’m somebody that wants to play.”

“I’m a veteran. You don’t have to do me like that,” Lenard said. “At the end of the game, 17 seconds? It wasn’t right. I’ve been a veteran for 11 years in the league. I’ve never had an altercation with no coach or no players for 11 years. What would make me start now?”

Writes the NY Post’s Peter Vescey,

Nuggets assistant Scott Brooks ” 0-4 when George Karl is in suspended contamination ” is being sent down to the D-League to work on his substitution pattern, timeliness of times out and capacity to keep Carmelo Anthony healthy.

Post’s Hale : Mets Dealing For Lo Duca

Posted in Baseball at 11:47 am by

With a report somewhat echoed by one from the New York Times’ Ben Shipgel, the New York Post’s Mark Hale writes the Mets are near completion on a trade that would bring Marlins C Paul Lo Duca to Shea.

The Mets are believed to be close to a deal in which they would send a minor-league prospect to the Marlins for catcher Paul Lo Duca, according to a major-league source.

The identity of the Met prospect was not immediately known ” but it’s hard to envision it being Lastings Milledge, the jewel of their minor-league system.
Lo Duca batted .283 with six homers and 57 RBIs this past season and threw out 21 percent of runners trying to steal. The backstop, 34 in April, is owed $12.5M over the next two years.

Hands up, anyone who can explain how Lo Duca — 37 for 165 in throwing out base stealers — would represent an substantial upgrade on a platoon of Mike Piazza and Ramon Castro, particularly if Piazza were willing to accept a realistic one year deal. That said, I have no idea if Piazza would go for such a thing (I’m told he’s already asked Eddie Trunk to forward his mail), and Lo Duca would represent an economical alternative to Ramon Hernandez or Benji Molina.

I am thankful that there’s no talk whatsoever of the Mets pursuing Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez. Though the prospect of I-Rod receiving tutoring from Jose Reyes on how to take more pitches would not be without appeal.

Rackers’ Backer Calls Kicker Cards’ MVP

Posted in Gridiron at 11:33 am by

With Jay Feely’s misses still fresh in the minds of Giants and Eagles fans, the Sun Sentinel’s Chris Bricker damns kicker Neil Rackers with the faint praise of being “the most valuable player on the woeful Cardinals.”

He’s 32 of 33 on field goal attempts, 6 of 6 from 50 yards and beyond, and leads the league with 22 touchbacks on kickoffs, although he’s going to have to sit out at least one week after pulling a calf muscle in practice during the week.

Ask your average fan to name the NFL’s best kicker and he’ll give you Adam Vinatieri of the Patriots, who has won Super Bowls with his leg, or the very visible, 250-pound Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders.

When the Pro Bowl voting is announced in a couple of weeks, however, the world will know it’s Rackers, who would be a lot less obscure if he wasn’t playing for a 3-8 team.

Indeed, six years after he was drafted in the sixth round out of Illinois, Rackers’ celebrations have been largely limited to his personal accomplishments. There have been no playoffs games or clutch kicks on national television.

Last Sunday, he accepted his first miss of the season — wide left from 43 yards — ending his streak at 31. But he’s still within booting distance of Morten Andersen’s mark of eight 50-yarders in a season.

After 11 games, he has converted 14 of 20 50-yarders for his career, including the record-tying three he hit in one game a year ago.

Still, as brilliantly as he’s kicked, there has been so much disappointment. He’s never been on a winning team in the NFL.

I’m impressed that Bricker took the time to plead the case of a kicker who won’t even be playing in today’s incredibly compelling Cardinals/49ers game, let alone the next 3 weeks.

Dodgers Sign Furcal

Posted in Baseball at 12:45 am by

In a development that should send the Braves and Cubs back to the drawing board (or to Julio Lugo, same thing), Los Angeles (NL) has inked SS Rafael Furcal to a three year, $39.5 million contract.

Almost as surprising as this coup by new GM Ned Colletti is the LA Times managing to publish the story before Ken Rosenthal could get to it. If Ken’s streak can end, I think the Colts are pretty vulnerable, too.

Still plenty of time before sunrise for Newsday to edit Jon Heyman’s Sunday column where he writes “The Cubs supposedly are ahead for Rafael Furcal. Don’t count out the Braves. The Dodgers, offering second base, are wasting their time.”

The Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes reports the Red Sox and Rangers are discussing a Manny Ramirez/Alfonso Soriano swap. In less spectacular news, Edes suggests that Boston and San Diego are talking about exchanging David Wells and Doug Mirabelli for Mark “When I Talk To” Loretta. If Eric Van is still on the Boston payroll, he can tell you how bad that joke was.


R. Kelly Pisses All Over National Anthem

Posted in Boxing, The World Of Entertainment at 10:31 pm by

Prior to tonight’s Jermain Taylor/Bernard Hopkins middleweight title re-match, Jim DeRogatis nemesis R. Kelly performed a vaguely new jack-ish version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that was as lengthy as it was hacktastic. Kelly, introduced by Michael Buffer as “Jive Recording Artist….Mr. Show Business” (scoffed Lady CSTB, “yeah, ‘show me your daughters and I’ll do my business on them’”) was roundly booed by the Las Vegas audience, presumably not packed with “Boondocks” fans.

Though the sight of Oscar De La Hoya struggling to clap in time with the not-s0-phat beats couldn’t have helped much, this was all on Kelly — I can only imagine how much that great patriot Ronnie Isley would’ve been offended (and then left the younger vocalist to die in the Nevada desert). Kelly can now add his name to the pantheon of Rosanne Barr, Carl Lewis and Liz Phair in offending millions while performing a universally loved tribute to America, a pretty neat trick. I’ve finally found something about him to admire.

Gary Sheffield’s little mustache was unavailable for comment.

Remembering Pat Putnam

Posted in Boxing, Sports Journalism at 9:49 pm by

Legendary boxing journalist Pat Putnam (above), though widely eulogized earlier in the week, was the subject of further tribute Saturday by the Washington Post’s Thom Loverro.

Putnam was a great writer and an American original with heart, humor, brilliance and courage. He served two tours of duty in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War and won four Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross. He spent 17 months as a prisoner of war in Manchuria and carried pain and scars from that experience until the day he died. But he carried them deep inside, never putting them out for show or talking about the price he paid for his country.

In fact, within 10 seconds of a greeting from Putnam, you likely would hear a joke. His sense of humor was as renowned as his writing. Once before a fight in Reno, when Michael Buffer was in the ring introducing celebrities in the audience, Putnam, sitting ringside, shouted to Buffer, “Don’t forget Joe DiMaggio.” So Buffer, excited about the prospect of introducing the great DiMaggio, launches into this elaborate introduction, along the lines of, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a big Reno welcome for one of the greatest baseball players of all time, a member of the Hall of Fame who 50 years ago hit in 56 straight games. Let’s hear it for the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio.” The crowd went wild, standing up to get a look at DiMaggio.

Of course, DiMaggio was nowhere near Reno that day.

Once, in the week leading up to the Larry Holmes-Ossie Ocasio heavyweight fight in Las Vegas in 1979, Putnam and Holmes’ trainer, Richie Giachetti, covered fellow boxing writer Michael Katz, who was sleeping by the hotel pool in a lounge chair, with newspapers. Then Putnam set the papers on fire. His story was that he had just read a book about the Norsemen and he wanted to see a Viking funeral.

Gullible Colorado Electorate Flips Out Over Bogus Article

Posted in Baseball, non-sporting journalism, politics at 4:45 pm by

The following comes courtesy of Repoz, who writes,

If only Orson Welles hadn’t exploded his career, gut and Mike Douglas’ comfy couch due to sweet roll consumption so early on…he would have dug this.

From Denver’s CBS affiliate, Channel 4.

Colorado Senator Wayne Allard received nearly two dozen angry calls in response to a satirical column by the Rocky Mountain News’ Dave Krieger.

In Thursday’s column, Krieger wrote:

U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard announced today he will spearhead a Senate probe of the Colorado Rockies’ player payroll. “I’m a member of the Budget Committee, and this is clearly a budget issue,” Allard said. “I’ve never been a big spender. Let me make that crystal clear. I am in favor of fiscal discipline. But, come on. This is ridiculous. If we ran the military the way the Rockies run their team, we’d have, like, three tanks or something. I believe this is a matter for federal review under the equal protection clause. All baseball fans have a right under the Constitution to equal protection from cheapskates and skinflints and so forth. It is my intention to investigate whether the Rockies are in violation of the 14th Amendment.”

The quote was italicized in the article.

Irate Rockies fans called Allard’s office complaining about the statement. The Rocky Mountain News confirms the column was a joke and Senator Allard never made any such statement. Krieger was writing about the extent to which politicians get involved in sports issues.

Imagine all the trouble you could cause in Denver if left a couple of issues of The Onion laying around. Not to sound skeptical for the sake of itself, but we’re supposed to believe the Rockies still have two dozen fans?

Patterson Says Uncle, Returns To Blazers

Posted in Basketball at 4:33 pm by

People of Portland, rejoice. Your nightmare of moderate length is over —- Ruben Patterson is again a member of the Blazers. From the Oregonian’s Jason Quick and Mike Tokito.

The Oregonian has learned that Patterson has agreed to apologize to the team before Saturday’s practice, and to adhere to a letter of expectations outlined by the team. The terms of the letter were not disclosed, but it is believed to include a kabosh on making detrimental comments to the media about his playing time and the state of the team.

Coach Nate McMillan said he expects Patterson to be activated and play in Sunday’s home game against Utah.

“I expect him to be back tomorrow under the conditions we talked about, which was basically what’s best for this team and this organization,” McMillan said.

I am very hopeful that the word “kabosh” was used in said letter, and if so, John Nash is a lot sharper than he looks.

The Knicks’ D-League affiliate, Fayetteville, saw their record drop to 2-4 following a 91-85 loss to the Tulsa 66′ers this afternoon, the same score as Thursday’s meeting between the two clubs. Southern Cal’s Desmond Farmer had 22 points for Tulsa, teammate Bernard King garnering 10 points and 3 assists.

Not that Bernard King, but it was a fun thought.

Buffalo Extinction : Texas Punches Barnett, Ticket To Pasadena

Posted in Gridiron at 2:40 pm by

Texas 63, Colorado 3 (3rd quarter, 9:59 remaining)

I sincerely hope that Katie Hnida (above) is enjoying today’s game on a big-screen TV with a cold beverage and the company of good friends.

Sultan Of Sloth Seethes, Seeks SD/SF Send-Off

Posted in Baseball at 2:27 pm by

From the Boston Globe’s Jeff Horrigan.

A frustrated David Wells has been telling friends that he has no intention of returning to play for the Red Sox, but club management is offering no guarantees that the left-handed pitcher will be traded during the up-coming winter meetings in Dallas.

Wells (above), who went 15-7 in 30 starts (and also left three games with leads subsequently blown by the bullpen), has another year on his contract but the 42-year-old felt uncomfortable with his lack of privacy in Boston and has asked to be traded closer to his native San Diego. It was believed that the Sox discussed a deal with the Padres prior to former general manager Theo Epstein™s Halloween departure, but Wells has become frustrated by the apparent lack of progress. Boston was believed to be discussing a swap for outfielder Dave Roberts and/or relief pitcher Akinori Otsuka.

If nothing is resolved before spring training, Wells has told friends that he definitely will not be reporting to the Sox. If a trade with the Padres (for whom he went 12-8 in 2004) can™t be worked out, he would be happy with the San Francisco Giants. Wells does not want to remain in the American League.

You’re probably as shocked as I am. David Wells has friends?

Utah-Loving Chiesa Buried By D’Alessandro

Posted in Basketball at 12:10 pm by

Though I’m 100% guilty of encouraging the nonsensical apples and oranges debate over who’s the more exciting Tri-State Area franchise presently, the Rangers or Nets, I don’t think there’s any question as to which area beat writer is delivering the goods each time his fingers commence typing.

Dave D’Alessandro’s bloggy “Nets Blast”, found on the Newark Star-Ledger’s website, oughta be required reading, whether or not you have a rooting interest in the Brooklyn Ratners. Following up on the sudden departure of Nets assistant Gordon Chiesa (who offered a curious explanation of his own earlier this week), D’Allessandro sheds more light on the incident.

First, the family thing: Chiesa put his son in a parochial school in the inner city “ we won™t mention which, because it is a fine institution in a not-so-fine area. But it certainly wasn™t the best placement for a kid who grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City.

Second, the job duties: Whose fault is it that the top assistant coach didn™t have an understanding of what the job would entail before he accepted it? It would occur to most guys interested in this position to ask, œHow do you structure your practices, what is the game-day routine, what are my responsibilities, etc., etc. But by all accounts, he never even gave Brian Hill “ his predecessor, who liked the job just fine “ a single phone call to get his perspective.

Finally, the departure: We™re told by someone in the organization that Gordie (above, right) literally went AWOL for two days, before dropping this on Frank™s lap a few days before the season began. In their final meeting, he protested that he was the first assistant, and should have the right to address the team at halftime. That™s probably how it works in Utah, where Phil Johnson addresses the team while Jerry Sloan goes off to sneak a Marlboro, but it doesn™t work that way in any of the other 29 NBA locker rooms.

So Gordie decided to throw it all down and split.

œAnd who does that? says an NBA assistant coach, who has known Chiesa since his Manhattan College days. œWho leaves a team a few days before the first game? The thing to do is, let your family go back, meet up with them at the end of the year, and then quit. But this? On one hand, you have to blame Lawrence for not realizing that it wouldn™t work. But on the other, man, you just have to know Gordie.”

Mets In “Anyone But Kaz” Mode

Posted in Baseball at 11:35 am by

As previously tipped by the Journal News’ Peter Abraham, the Mets are in the running for free agent 2B Mark Grudzielanek writes the New York Daily News’ Sam Borden.

Mets GM Omar Minaya also is continuing to gauge the market for Kris Benson and numerous teams have contacted him about the righthander. Minaya is expected to advance discussions about moving Benson at next week’s winter meetings in Dallas, and it’s possible that he could deal Benson before he returns home in an effort to cut payroll and address one of the club’s needs at the same time.

Of course, one of those needs appears to be at second base. Minaya said last month that incumbent Kaz Matsui was the Mets’ second baseman “for now,” but it’s no secret that’s one area the GM is looking to upgrade.

Mark Grudzielanek (above), who hit .294 for the Cardinals last season, would seem to be a solid fit. Although he came up as a shortstop with the Expos, Grudzielanek now has played more games at second base and has committed just 56 errors over 775 games there.

The 35-year-old has a strong throwing arm and an excellent pivot at second base, scouts say, and would provide some stability for young shortstop Jose Reyes. The Cardinals would like to re-sign Grudzielanek and the Royals are also believed to have interest in him.

Minaya is still believed to have interest in Orioles reliever Jorge Julio, but the Mets backed off discussions for a swap with Baltimore when it became clear there was significant interest in Benson around the league. The Giants and Royals are believed to have made serious overtures regarding Benson, but it’s unclear if there’d be any match with either club.

Still, one source said he’d be “surprised” if the Mets don’t find somewhere to send Benson, who has two years and about $15.5 million coming to him over the next two seasons. Minaya ultimately may decide to make the trade with Baltimore, but just wants to be certain there isn’t a better package out there. Dealing Benson would free up some cash for the Mets to make another splashy move – trading for A’s lefty Barry Zito, perhaps, or, of course, Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez.

The Angels signed P Hector Carrasco to a two-year, $6.1 million contract yesterday, claiming that they’ve given up hope of retaining Paul Byrd, nor will they seek to keep Jerod Washburn.

Jay Strell forwards an item from yesterday’s Chicago Tribune in which Mark Gonzales claimed the Twins are considering signing Frank Thomas, who could be rendered a free agent by the White Sox as early as this week.

After finishing third in the division, the Twins are examining Thomas as well as fellow free-agent slugger Mike Piazza in an effort to bolster an offense that finished 13th in the league with a .259 batting average and was 12th in home runs and last in runs scored.

A healthy Thomas would give the Twins a bona fide power threat and take some pressure off 22-year-old catching standout Joe Mauer in the middle of the batting order. Minnesota is prepared to lose right fielder Jacque Jones to free agency but already has sought ways to improve its offense.

The White Sox, who already fortified their offense by acquiring Jim Thome and re-signing Paul Konerko, are expected to officially cut ties with Thomas no later than Wednesday by not offering him salary arbitration. That move would make them relinquish the rights to re-signing him to a major-league contract until May 1.

The Twins also are interested in switch-hitting third baseman Bill Mueller, whom the White Sox are trying to convince to sign as a utility player despite the presence of Joe Crede (who is coping with two herniated discs in his lower back).

The Dodgers have made offered free agent SS Rafael Furcal a 3 year, $40 million deal. With each lucrative contract dangled in front of Furcal, the more the Devil Rays are compelled to think they can command greater value in a trade for wife-slapping Julio Lugo.

The Yankees’ long-rumoured signed of reliever Kyle Farnsworth is finally official, though there’s no word on whether or not the club will tolerate the hard-living pitcher’s unique brand of free expression.

To the Yanks, let me set down some ground rules:

-The STUDLY FARNSWORTH ASS may and is encouraged to be appreciated. You dont got to be gay to appreciate the extreme hottness of my ass just like you dont got to be a artist to appreciate the Mona fuckin Lisa. But its on a ‘look do not touch’ basis.

-I got less than zero interest in your petty dramas. You try to involve me in em, dont go sobbin like I stole yo sisters virginity when I snap at you.

-If I have a bad game which hopefully I will not ever but the law of averages bein what it is I probly will, do not attempt to comfort me with hugs or sunshine or whatever gay shit works on such as Alex Rodriguez. I will break lockerroom equipment and you will be fuckin happy that it aint limbs Im crackin.

-If you have not heard my glorious tellings of the Paul Wilson Story or the Jeremy Affeldt Story be aware that you will hear them eventually.

-Rookies, first years, and kids what appear rookie enough by my standards even if they aint techincally rooks will be subject to wedgies as I see fit to distribute them.

Adande Stumps For Bruins Duo

Posted in Gridiron at 9:41 am by

With today’s UCLA/USC contest the only remaining obstacle for the latter’s 3rd consecutive National Championship appearance — most likely against Texas in the Rose Bowl, barring a Colorado miracle —- the LA Times’s A.J. Adande is well aware that the Heisman Trophy battle is a two horse race between Matt Leinart and Reggie Busch. Just the same, he makes a case for UCLA’s QB Drew Olson and RB Maurice Drew.

At UCLA, the job demand for Olson and Drew (above) is like an air traffic controller: no margin for error. While USC wins by an average of 27 points a game, the Bruins’ average margin in their nine victories is 13.5 points ” a perilous 6.7 in Pacific-10 Conference games. At UCLA, opposing punters can get in some quality study time during the games; the offense has to be on high alert.

The one time Drew was shut out, the Bruins were shut down, losing to Arizona, 52-14. It’s no coincidence.

Now that ESPN has stopped showing continuous-loop highlights of Bush’s 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State, they might want to dig out a tape of the 299 yards and five touchdowns Drew produced against California. It was the first time I allowed myself to think “Drew might not be as good as Bush, but you can’t say he doesn’t mean as much to his team.”

Drew even manages to top Bush in my little statistical category inspired by Bush: Timely Touchdowns. Game-changers, if you will. Last season, 12 of Bush’s 15 touchdowns came when the Trojans were losing, tied or leading by seven points or fewer. He’s on a similar pace this season, with 12 of his 16 TDs meeting those criteria. For Drew, 16 of his 19 touchdowns this season came when the Bruins were tied, trailed or led by a touchdown or less. That’s 84%.

Drew also compensates for his defense’s inability to win field position by returning punts a national-best average of 29 yards. Factor that against USC’s suspect special teams and you see why USC Coach Pete Carroll called Drew “one of the real issues in this game, a guy that can make a difference.”

Drew scored the winning touchdown in the victories over Washington, California and Washington State, plus the game-tying touchdown against Stanford.

And now, some love for the quarterback who directed the fourth-quarter comebacks.

I read a column suggesting Texas’ Young should get the Heisman, and the first statistical argument was that Young was second in the country in pass efficiency at the time. Well, guess who’s No. 1? Drew Olson.

And if we’re going to say USC has comfier games, let’s not forget Texas’ average margin of victory is 36.7 points.

Olson’s most important numbers are his touchdowns vs. interceptions: 30 to three. It’s not only the minimal mistakes, it’s the confidence he has instilled in teammates. You can’t start game-winning drives on the road without a confident quarterback, and Olson brought a swagger that spread to all.

Souness v. O’Leary : Who Gets Fired First?

Posted in Football at 8:45 am by

Following midweek Carling Cup embarrassments — Newcastle’s defeat to Wigan on a late penalty, Aston Villa being hammered by League One’s Doncaster Rovers — Villa’s visit to Newcastle this afternon might well have the jobs of two managers hanging in the balance writes the Independent’s Nick Harris.

Graeme Souness (above) and David O’Leary have both underachieved. In Sir Bobby Robson’s last three seasons at Newcastle, they finished fourth, third, and fifth in the Premiership. Souness led them to 14th last season, and after spending £50m this year, they are 12th.

Villa finished sixth in O’Leary’s first season, 2003-04, but fell to 10th last season, and are 15th today, only five points above the relegation zone. He has spent “only” £13.5m this year, £11m in the summer. “I feel I am under pressure with every game because the buck stops with myself,” he said.

Neither man can look to take solace in upcoming fixtures. After today, Newcastle face Arsenal at home, then trips to West Ham and Liverpool.

Villa face a trip to Bolton Wanderers, then games with Manchester United and Everton. And both men have heard the talk about replacements being lined up.

Newcastle have an eye on Bolton’s Sam Allardyce, and may appoint Glenn Roeder, the head of their academy, as a caretaker if Souness goes.

Villa know that George Burley, twiddling his thumbs since leading Hearts to the top of the Scottish Premier League and then being ousted, would welcome an approach to fill O’Leary’s shoes. Burley has also been linked to Newcastle, as has Martin O’Neill.

With less than a month until the transfer window opens, Freddie Shepherd and Doug Ellis are both aware that any managerial change needs to be made before January’s trading to be truly meaningful. For all these reasons, today’s match represents a make-or-break occasion.

Souness acknowledged yesterday that his future is in doubt. “I understand I’m getting a lot of criticism,” he said. “That’s the price on the ticket and I’d not argue with anyone who said we were bad against Wigan.”

With less than a month until the transfer window opens, Shepherd and Ellis are both aware that any managerial change needs to be made before January’s trading to be truly meaningful. For all these reasons, today’s match represents a make-or-break occasion.

Just in time to derail the grass roots campaign to elect Peter Crouch’s the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year, the lanky striker scored twice — his first Premiership goals since his transfer from Southampton — in Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat of Wigan.

Harry Redknapp has walked out on Southampton following the Saints’ decision to deny Portsmouth the opportunity to speak with Redknapp regarding their managerial vacancy. Dave Bassett is interim manager for today’s match with Burnley.

Redknapp’s defense, as quoted by the BBC’s Phil McNulty.

“I felt once I told Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe I wanted to speak to Portsmouth I had burned my bridges at Southampton.

“Once I’ve said that I can’t go back there. Their people wouldn’t want me back at the club. I understand that.”

He added: “Once I said to Southampton that I want to speak to Portsmouth, it was impossible to go back. If they can’t do a deal with Portsmouth then I’m left in limbo and I will have to accept that.

“It means I will have to walk my dogs every day, which I suppose I’ll have to do.

“I felt, to be honest, that I was only keeping the hot seat warm for somebody else. I had no future there and I would have liked the opportunity to speak to Portsmouth.”

Presumably, the somebody else being former England Rugby Union manager Sir Clive Woodward.

If Nothing Else, He’s Way More Entertaining Than An Episode of “Sports Bloggers Live”

Posted in Blogged Down at 1:28 am by

I don’t know if they’ve found a replacement yet for Michael Irvin on this weekend’s “NFL Countdown”, but the gang at Bristol U. could do far worse than hand over a seat to “The Kid From Brooklyn”, Mike Caracciolo (Windows Media Player required, link courtesy Throws Left, Bats Right